I recently read somewhere that people think over 6,200 thoughts a day. That is a lot of information to process on a daily basis! The nature of the thoughts can range from silly, to serious, to positive and negative and back again. There are judgments, decisions, and so much more in our thought lives. As a therapist, I have noticed that many of the struggles people face start and end with their thought lives. Our thoughts often guide our behaviors and how we may view ourselves or the world around us.
Christian speaker and author Joyce Meyer has a whole series on the battlefield of the mind. One of the key points that she shares is that we have the option to think about what we think about. This means that we don’t just have to let every thought we have stay in our minds, take root, and cause us to have a negative outlook on ourselves or our situations. We can choose to believe the lies or accept the truth of who we are. In 2 Corinthians 10:5 it states in part, “…and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Now the real question is, how do we do this?
In a book I have been recently reading called Spiritual Warfare by Karl I. Payne, he shares a story that illustrates a great way to take our thoughts captive. There is a picture given of a big pink elephant with floppy ears. He is wearing three red socks and one blue, has a green muffler for a trunk and a flashing neon sign above with the name Dumbo. Can you picture it? Now, I am going to ask that you do not think about that pink elephant. Don’t think about the colorful socks, floppy ears, or neon sign. Don’t think about it! It’s almost impossible to stop because now the picture is so clearly in your head.
Now I want to paint another picture. Visualize a white polar bear sitting on a frozen lake, surrounded by white snow. Everywhere you look is white, except for his black paw pads and nose. He is fishing for salmon and catches a fat, pink salmon, thrashing about on the ice. Can you picture it? Now, if I were to ask you if you were thinking of the pink elephant when I described the bear, I would venture to say most of you would say no. I painted a different picture, a new thought.
The point of this story is that so often we have thought patterns we don’t want to think (i.e. maybe anger, worry, etc.). We focus so much on this pink elephant that we end up thinking it anyway. However, when we replace it with our polar bear (the things we want to think about instead) we are shifting our focus to better and healthier thought patterns. The conclusion is that we can begin to think about our polar bears or healthy thoughts so that in turn we have now shifted our thinking. Utilizing scriptures or prayer are great polar bears. I encourage you to give this exercise a try. Find what you want to focus on and begin to think on that instead of trying to talk yourself out of the negative thought.
Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (ESV).” It is amazing what happens when we start to shift our thinking. It can change our view of self and the world around us. I see people change for the better as their thoughts begin to change. I encourage you to give it a try! One final thought to ask yourself, are the thoughts you think about: True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary, Kind?